ALAN Shearer will refuse to let his Newcastle United players wallow in their misery following the 1-0 defeat by Fulham as he predicted one final dramatic twist in the relegation battle.
United, who were denied a perfectly good equaliser from Mark Viduka by referee Howard Webb, were poor against the Cottagers, undoing so much of the positive work they had achieved with the 3-1 win over Middlesbrough.
A seventh home defeat of the season, coupled with Hull City’s 1-1 draw with Bolton, means the Magpies’ Premier League future is no longer in their own hands. But Shearer is defiant and he expects his players to be the same as he tries to inspire a performance against Aston Villa next weekend, which must garner at least a point if Newcastle are going to have any chance of avoiding the Championship.
“I said all along I thought it would go to the last day and that’s the case. It is not over yet,” said Shearer, who confronted Webb after the final whistle to complain about the decision to penalise Kevin Nolan for a foul on Mark Schwarzer. “Yes, everyone is disappointed, yes heads are down, but we live to fight another day and we will give it a right good go next weekend and see where we go.
“We will come in on Monday morning, try to lift everyone and see where we go from there, but I still think there will be a twist or a turn yet, without a doubt.
“Stakes are massive, stakes are high, but I still believe there is a twist and a turn. It will be a long afternoon next Sunday. Everyone else is in the same position, so we have to do better than Hull, that’s it.”
Hull could not have tougher opponents at the KC Stadium, but Manchester United have already won the Premier League title and they have a Champions League final against Barcelona to worry about just three days later.
However, Shearer has no concerns about the strength of the side Sir Alex Ferguson will send out against the Tigers as he refused to question Manchester United’s desire for that game.
He said: “I don’t have any concern on that issue. Whenever that has happened in the past Sir Alex has always been very fair to the rest of the league and put out a very good side.
“And let’s not forget we are talking about Manchester United here, they have
a bigger and better squad than anyone so I am sure there will be a few squad players in.
“But whoever is picked I am sure will do their football club justice.”
Shearer was inevitably angered by his team’s display, although he rightly argued Webb’s decision was a poor one, the cost of which will not be known until next weekend.
He said: “I said after Monday there was no point beating Middlesbrough and then losing here today and that is massively disappointing. We didn’t start at the tempo we finished the Middlesbrough game with for whatever reason and when that happens it is difficult to pick it up.
“We did pick it up second half and gave it a right good go. We gambled with three at the back and, but for two very good saves and a poor decision, we might have got something.
“I think when the referee looks at it again he will realise he got a big decision wrong, but there is no point looking for an apology from him, that’s not going to get us anywhere.” Meanwhile, Michael Owen’s Newcastle career could be over.
The England international has picked up yet another groin strain and will almost certainly miss the trip to Aston Villa.
If Newcastle fail to pull off a last-day escape, Owen will not be offered a new contract and he will be forced to accept whatever else is on offer in the Premier League.
Shearer said: “We will get him scanned and look at the results Monday afternoon and see where that leaves us for the Villa game.”